According to U.S. immigration law, an American citizen can marry a foreign national spouse and that spouse can be approved as a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR), if the marriage is efficacious. Since U.S. citizenship is highly desirable, and since other immigrants entering the system often wait through a lottery and are required to undergo a far more stringent screening process, a variety of marriage fraud schemes do exist that are intended to streamline the process of gaining LPR.
If you are wondering how to avoid marriage fraud accusations, the first answer would be to not commit fraud of any type and to follow the law. However, in some cases, innocent parties are accused of fraud, something that is investigated by the U.S.
Department of Homeland Security.
Examples of Immigration Marriage Fraud:
- You agree to marry a foreign national as a favor or as compensation in return for receiving a monetary payment or gift.
- Mail order brides/grooms, where the sole intent of the bride/groom is to defraud the system and gain permanent resident status.
- Rare cases where a foreign national deceives a U.S. citizen to gain LPR.
Marriage fraud penalties are nothing to scoff at. The U.S. government routinely investigates any accusations of marriage fraud diligently. The country has enacted tough penalties as a means of deterrence, and ignorance of the law is not an acceptable defense. Both parties, the U.S. citizen and the spouse to be, face imprisonment if convicted of marriage fraud, not to mention steep fines.
While it is uncommon for the foreign national entering into the marriage fraud to be prosecuted in the U.S., they are typically deported and placed on a list that prevents them from ever reentering the country legally again. It is important to note that those who engage in aiding with marriage fraud face penalties, too, and can be prosecuted for being a part of or engaging in a criminal conspiracy.
According to ICE, marriage fraud penalties consist of the following: “An individual will be charged with marriage fraud if they entered into a marriage for the purpose of evading U.S. immigration law. This felony offense carries a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $250,000, and applies to both foreign nationals and U.S. citizens who perpetrate this crime.”
How an Attorney Can Help with Penalties
If you are facing marriage fraud accusations, you’ll want to have the benefit of an experienced immigration lawyer representing you. In some cases, marriage fraud accusations are unwarranted, but that does not prevent the federal government from turning your life upside down during an investigation.
While the first step is to avoid ever being accused of marriage fraud by using a reputable attorney to aid you with your immigration needs, including marrying a foreign national, if you find yourself being accused, contact a lawyer right away. Federal prosecutors consist of highly experienced teams of lawyers that specialize in this type of law, and you’ll want equally as experienced representation on your side fighting for your rights and to clear your good name.